At Maru/Matchbox, we take an “online first” approach to study design and insights development, using in-person qualitative only when we believe the topic or business need makes it necessary. Here are three reasons why online qualitative research often yields better results:
1. The ways we communicate have changed, so our research methods should reflect that, too.
The advent of the internet, email and especially mobile devices like smart phones and tablets has radically changed how we buy, sell, work and most importantly, communicate. In today’s world, people text more than they call, and to be successful, we need to embrace the different ways people communicate. Online communication is not less important than face-to-face communication, it’s just different.
2. People are often more honest online than they are face to face.
Research has shown that studies done using computers have less social desirability bias. People are more willing to discuss sensitive topics online, even things like sexually transmitted diseases. It has also been shown that problem solving can work better online than face-to-face. However, the “disinhibition effect” that can be present with online discourse has its downside, too. Think internet “trolls” and venomous comment sections. This sword cuts both ways.
3. Online qualitative research gives people more time to think about their answers.
Qualitative research is concerned with trying to figure out why we do what we do. To do that we have to engage in what Daniel Kahnemann calls “system 2” thinking—which is characterized as slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, and conscious. That kind of thinking benefits from time for reflection, something we don’t generally have much time for in an in-person group discussion.
To learn more about all the benefits of online qualitative research, read our blog post Life is Online, Research Should Be Too.